Double Double

Two double days in a row… Doesn’t get much better. Both days with time spent on the road bike and the ‘cross bike. Perfect combination of training.

Tuesday was an excellent day of training and racing. I kicked the day off with a skill session in my local park. I focused on dismounts/mounts, turning, and some start intervals. The usual stuff. This year I’m teaching myself a new way of dismounting… I used to always pre-unclip the left foot as I came into a barrier or obstacle. Now I’m only unclipping the left foot at the last moment before dismounting. This method is considered by some to be rather “risky”. Well, I also thought it was a bit risky until last week when Marc showed me how to do it and then we put it into practice in the woods. I’ve learned that it is much faster and when done correctly, there is no risk involved. So I’ve been spending a lot of time breaking down this dismount technique and working on getting the basics of it correct so when I do it at speed, I won’t have any issues.

Second part of Tuesday’s training day was spent at the Tuesday night training criterium. Again, another fast night at the local training race. All the usual suspects were out with a few new faces in the crowd to mix things up. I was having a great ride until my chain started to act up. All of a sudden the chain started hopping and skipping all over the cassette. This made for some rather erratic pedaling and riding. I stopped to look at it – couldn’t see a problem so decided to jump back in…. Well, as soon as I applied pressure to the pedals, the chain jumped from the big ring to the small ring and was chattering all over the cassette. Sigh…. Thanks to Shaun and Vince, I discovered that I had a “kink” in my chain and it was a bit twisted… Bummer but at least the chain didn’t break during the race. All in all, it was a great night of training/racing. I hit some good numbers and I did feel comfortable in the pack. Nice to see this form at this point in the season. Extra bonus of the night was catching up with my pal Sheri Jay.

Today is another day of doubling-up. Doing things in reverse today, starting with a road ride in the morning and a ‘cross ride in the evening. Today was all about 1 minute efforts on the road bike. Yeesh, never has a minute felt so long and so painful! Ah well, money in the bank for the upcoming cyclo-cross season. Looking forward to getting out on my new cyclo-cross bike again tonight. I have to say, I’m really liking the way the new Stevens Carbon Team feels. It corners really nicely. There are some smooth finishing touches on it like the flattened out top tube that allows the bike to rest on my shoulder nicely. And the paint job is slick – I love that yellow! Tonight Karl, Conor, and Marc and I will hit up the trails for some fast riding. Nothing like a night of chasing the fast guys through the woods, sand, and trees!

Yep, some pretty good days around these parts. Cyclo-cross season is right around the corner with my first race on Sept. 11 in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania. Can’t wait. My new cyclo-cross clothing will be arriving any day now. Looking forward to showing off the red, white, and black Ottawa Cross kit again this year. Many thanks to Champion Systems Canada for the excellent support this year.

If you find yourself wondering about cyclo-cross training, why not join me and a few others on Thursday morning for some ‘cross practice? The 90 minute session will focus on the basics of cyclo-cross with dismount/mounts, uphill shouldering, follow the leader, and a few other drills. Good time with a relaxed tone guaranteed. Email me for details.

Pinch Me

Guess you can tell by the title that I’m having one of those good days. Actually, day is too narrow – lets rephrase this to seasons or phases or times. Anyway, lets just say that I’m in a good place right now. Everything is just coming together so perfectly for the upcoming season.

I had a fantastic ride today. Legs felt great, ticking over nicely and just really loved every second of it. Rode to the little town of Merrickville today. It was super windy but it was sunny and dry – no complaints here. Great afternoon at the office.

I’m getting my schedule sorted out and have registered for a bunch of races already. Today I registered for Cross Vegas! I’m stoked. Can’t believe I’m going to race at Cross Vegas. I’ve wanted to race at Cross Vegas for two years now. Can’t really believe that I’m going to race this race. Kind of crazy, in 2007 I was racing with the 3/4 women’s field and held a masters license – now in 2010 after a few successful seasons in my legs, I’m racing in the elite women’s field at Cross Vegas. Cool. Very cool.

The Cross Vegas trip will involve a lot of firsts for me. First time to Las Vegas. First time racing at Cross Vegas. First time at a bike trade show. First time doing an evening race. A lot of first times. No complaints here. I’m super looking forward to the race and to attending Interbike.

Oh, in case you missed it, I’ve started writing rider diaries again for Cyclocross Magazine, my latest rider diary is posted. Also there is an article about the latest Stevens cyclo-cross bikes that Katie Compton, Marriane Vos, Hanka Kupfernagel, Niels Albert, and I will be riding – check it out. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Canadian Cyclist Magazine to read some of my latest articles.

Well, I guess that is about it. Tomorrow I’ve got a great day of training on deck. Hill sprints and cyclo-cross starts in the morning chased with an evening cyclo-cross ride with Karl and Marc. I’ll strap on the helmet camera tomorrow night and shoot some video of my favorite sand course.

Girl Racer

Yes, okay, I’m ripping my blog title off of Mark Cavendish’s book Boy Racer… Sorry, sometime a girl has to dig deep to find a title and as I have an affinity for Mr. Cavendish’s book, I thought I’d honor him with my title. If the Manx Missile is reading this blog, lets hope he posts up in the comments… Come on Mark – we know that you have lots of down time right now – you’re only in the last week of the biggest race in France… Alright, I suppose I can dream that the likes of Mark Cavendish would read this site… Now on to the real meat of this post.

Really all I have to say is: thanks! Thanks for the support. Thanks for the emails. Thanks for the Twitter messages. Thanks for the Facebook messages. Thanks for the blog comments. All of these seemingly small things add up and give me a great feeling. The encouragement, the words of wisdom, the understanding – it keeps me coming back for more and wanting to do my best.

This might sound a bit lame but it is true. I’m in a funny spot as a bike racer – I don’t race with a team. I train primarily alone. I really have only myself to look to for motivation when things are feeling a bit tough. But thanks to your constant support, I know that there are people out there who are very similar to my teammates – encouraging me when I need it, giving me a kick in the butt when I need it, and simply just being a presence through the good and the bad.

Speaking of good – I had a fantastic weekend of training. Saturday saw me up bright and early and out the door by 6 a.m. so I could get my intervals in and ride to the Gatineau Park to hook up with Skip so we could ride out to watch the OBC Grand Prix. It was an excellent morning of riding, chatting, handing up bottles, catching up with friends, cheering on Marc and the Scott Boys, watching the Stevens girls rip up the field, and seeing young Timothy cross the line with a big grin on his face. All in all a great day to be a bike racer in Ottawa. Sunday was equally fine. Marc and Shaun convinced me to come out on the Scott team ride. I was a bit hesitant as I didn’t want to slow them down – but luckily they all had six laps of the Gatineau Park in their legs! What a great ride – my first time doing the MacGregor Lake loop. Thoroughly enjoyed it. The conversation was good, the pace was perfect (just enough to push me out of my comfort zone) and the time whipped by. Thanks guys for a great ride!

So an excellent weekend of riding, friends, cheering and simply having fun on bikes. Life really doesn’t get any sweeter.

Looking forward to the ‘cross season starting. My race schedule is looking pretty good with lots of variety of races in it and of course with the big one in January in St. Wendel, Germany.

Now, I best be off and go finish Mr. Cavendish’s book. It is a great read. In fact I channeled my inner-Manx Missile on Sunday during the ride with Scott Boys. I thought about what Mark goes through to make it through the mountains so he can unleash his sprint at the end… This actually did help me focus on the wheel in front of me and to get up and over some of the hills on Sunday. So thanks Mark – you are doing for me what I hope I’m doing for others!

This and That

I know it’s not a very ‘cross-focused title, but sometimes it is challenging to come up with a catchy title. I should be thinking of the search engines when creating my titles (so say the search engine optimization folks) but sometimes I just need to let my fingers do the talking. Okay, enough about the title, lets get onto the argy-bargey (thanks Phil, Paul and the cool dudes at the Velocast for this fine word)….

First off – big news – I have update my sponsors page. I’m honored to be supported by such a fine group of companies. Without their support, this sweet life I lead racing my cyclo-cross bike all over North American and Europe simply wouldn’t be possible. So click on over to the sponsor page to read about these great companies. Just to make it easy for you, I proudly present my sponsors for the 2010 – 2011 cyclo-cross season:
KingsBridge Disaster Recovery: the leader in business continuity and disaster recovery planning software.
The Cyclery: this Ottawa bike store has all your cycling needs covered and the friendliest mechanics in town.
Stevens Bikes: the fastest cyclo-cross bikes around. Just ask the current Women’s World Champion.
Outdoor Gear Company: dealers of fine Giro helmets and sweet Mavic shoes and wheels.
Clif Bar: tasty Shot Bloks, Clif Bars, and Luna bars. You’ll never go hungry with Clif in you jersey pocket.
Champion Systems: custom sublimated clothing for an affordable price – now there is no excuse for bad kit.
Bell Lap Coaching: coach Steve has the skills, the knowledge and the dedication to take you to the next level.
Oakley: Jawbone, Radar, Full Metal Jacket, Enduring… Plus smooth t’s, luggage, caps. Be fast and look good.

In keeping with the updates theme, I’ve also updated my 2010 – 2011 race calendar. I still need to fill out the racing while I’m in Belgium, but I’ve got the World Cup and elite women’s races listed. Like the past three seasons, I’ll be racing with the junior boys when there isn’t a women’s race on the calendar. Anyway, click on over so you can see where I’ll be out having fun and chasing my cyclo-cross dreams this season.

Have to say it is full-on cyclo-cross mode around here these days. Recovery rides are spent in the woods riding my trusty Stevens bike. The trick is of course on these recovery days to keep the legs from getting to excited… To do this, I focus on small things such as: eyes up at all times, constantly pedaling, riding with my hands on the tops rather than the hoods (to curb the over-braking tendencies), to only use the rear brake, and to focus on a high/smooth cadence. By doing this I’m able to maximize my time on the ‘cross bike – even though I’m not ripping around at top speed, I’m still training my body and mind with some crucial skills that come race day, will be second nature.

Today, though was not a recovery day… Nope it was all about that crucial first “45”. The start is perhaps one of the most important sections of the race. A solid start can help you get into a hard-charging group and often can help you avoid the “first corner” pile-ups that happen as the course narrows from the start/finish straight to the hole shot. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember that I have not had a good history with my starts. I’ve had trouble getting amped up for the start and for really putting all my energies into blasting off the line. Well, this is all history for me now. I’ve been working all summer on short intense sprints, my mental attitude to the starts, and really I’ve recognized that if I want to be in the race – I need to start better. So today I drilled myself into the ground with five 45 second start intervals. This may not sound like much but when each of those intervals is done at full gas, five is plenty. I like the numbers I’m seeing. I like the explosion I’m getting in my legs. I’m learning how to use the entire bike to propel me forward. I can tell already that my starts are going to be better this year. Great way to be feeling on this mid-July afternoon.

The rest of the training week is full of tempo intervals and lots of time in the saddle. Nothing like the Sunday long ride to put a smile on my face. I’ll also get out on my ‘cross bike each afternoon for a skill session. Focus will be on barriers, dismounts, mounts (flat and uphill) and uphill/downhill turning.

I’m really looking forward to getting back to Belgium. I wish I could be out riding at Averbode and Kasterlee this weekend! Not to mention hanging out with the ‘cross gang before and after the races. Soon enough though I’ll be back in Blauberg for a winter of racing, training, and soaking up life.